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La Marmite, Issue #7 -- Mardi Gras in France|
February 17th, 2009
Bonjour et bienvenue to the seventh issue of La Marmite.
In this issue you will find featured:
Mardi Gras in France
This year Mardi Gras falls on February 24th. To get you in the mood for this festive occasion, let's have have a look at how Mardi Gras is celebrated in French Guyana, a South American department of France.
On the Catholic calendar, Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, a period when sobriety and frugality need to be respected. In some places, including French Guyana, the whole period leading up to Mardi Gras has become a big party called Carnaval.
At first glance, one might think that this was just a long, chaotic celebration, but in fact there are a number of rituals and rules that are respected for this annual blow out.
Here's a taste of some of the characters you might meet up with in Guyane during the Carnaval period.
Every Sunday during Carnaval, a parade is organized in the streets of one of the big towns. In general people participate in the parade as part of a group. A theme is given each year, and various associations will spend months preparing their costumes.
Not only are you likely to catch sight of some of the traditional Guyanese characters described above, you'll be treated to Brazilian dancing girls with feathers (and sometimes not even those), Amerindian groups, Chinese groups, and Indian groups as well. These parades are truly multi-cultural affairs. Skip through this video of a recent parade in Kourou to catch sight of some of these groups.
Dances are organized by different associations throughout the Carnaval period. Each dance location has its own particular character and reputation. Be warned, ça peut chauffer! Many Touloulous and Tololos take advantage of their anonymity to heat things up a bit.
Of course, Mardi Gras is celebrated all over France, not just in French Guyana. Each city has its own special traditions, but one thing almost all of these celebrations have in common is the beignet. These fired fritters are cooked up in large batches and distributed freely during parties and parades on Mardi Gras in France.
Place the milk in a large mixing bowl and warm it in the microwave until just lukewarm. With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast, sugar and salt and until completely dissolved. Stir in the flour, butter, eggs and flavoring and mix well.
Knead dough just until smooth and then gather into a round. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator until chilled - three or four hours or overnight.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it on an a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/2 inch thick. You can cut the dough into any shape you wish - diamonds are popular in France.
Heat the oil in a sturdy pot (or use a deep fat fryer if you have one) until it is 360° F. Drop the beignets in the hot oil and cook in small batches, using metal tongs to turn them occasionally. They should take two to three minutes to be golden brown and puffy.
Remove the beignets with the tongs and place them on folded paper towels to drain the excess oil. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish and enjoy your beignets hot.
Makes a couple dozen beignets, but it depends on how you cut them!
Florence fennel is one of the vegetables that I discovered after moving to France. I didn't try it for a long time, but once I did, I fell in love with its delightfully light licorice taste.
Don't think black licorice candy, this is much more mellow, especially when cooked. My favorite way to cook it is braised slowly in white wine where it softens into a slightly sweet side dish, perfect for serving along poultry.
Next time you're at the grocery store why not pick up a couple of bulbs and get going on a new taste experience? Here are two fennel recipes to get you started.
What's new at Easy French Food?
Not so many recipes this month as I've been concentrating on kitchen equipment. Check out this handy list of kitchen utensils you are likely to find in the French home. Not so different from your own, I'm sure. But there are some things you may not already own that would add a new dimension to your meals including a French press coffee pot and French onion soup bowls.
As for the recipes, do try out:
Hope you enjoyed your Mardi Gras in France. Thanks so much for spending some time with me. In the next issue, due out on March 17th, you can learn about French Easter traditions.
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A bientot and remember to enjoy your food!
Your friend in France,
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